American head coach Mike Brennan and players Marko Vasic and Charlie Jones spoke to the media after the Eagles' 60-59 win over Lafayette that snapped a three-game losing streak and improved AU to 8-18, 6-9 in the Patriot League.
On the winning possession
"I don't even know if we drew it up for Charlie, to be honest with you. We come out, we try to draw up what we think will work but a lot of times teams play you differently and we don't run plays a ton anyway. So you just rely on your guys just making reads and trusting in their decision-making and that's what happened on that play. But Charlie just does so many other (things). Obviously the 3 was big, but he does a million other things to make you win the game. I thought Jesse was huge at the end there, too. I mean Jesse's getting baskets to the rim and he's rebounding — 15 and nine, that's a heck of a job for Jesse to be able to do that."
On Charlie making winning plays late in games (going back to LaSalle game last year)
"Yeah well he's confident and he knows that I trust him. He knows that I know he's doing all he can to win so whether it's a right decision, wrong decision, good shot, bad shot, I know that he's always thinking, 'I gotta do what we need on this possession.' And now that he's, he's a junior now so he's had a lot of minutes under his belt, he's getting more comfortable making some decisions like that down the stretch."
Would you like Charlie to take more shots (2-3 vs. Lafayette)?
"Nah, not really — 2-3, that's pretty good, I'll take 2-3. I think he's making the right decisions shooting when he should shoot."
On Marko's big four points to end regulation
"Again it happened last year where he was at center at the end the last however many games. He's just comfortable at that spot and he knows what he's doing, all the experience. He's got good instincts for the game and he can maneuver himself against the bigger guys guarding him."
How have you felt the upperclassmen have performed ?
"You saw Charlie tonight doing what he did, Marko doing what he did, and Jesse's been consistent the whole year. They've been terrific. Obviosuly the team, in a year like this, everyone can pack it in a long time ago and they've done the exact opposite. And that's why we're battling it out and you're coming away with a win just on one or two plays because what you're doing in practice."
How did you feel the team moved the ball/executed offensively in the first half?
"Well every team plays you differently and they were switching and doing some things that were sort of getting us back on our heels. But 25-24 — these days I'll take 24. But I think they did a good of just being more aggressive and adjusting in the second half and not letting just switching stymie them."
On making a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Jesse in the second half
"We don't have much of a post presence from anybody down there so we don't get a lot of easy baskets, we don't get a ton of transition or anything inside. So that's one way we can and Jesse has a mismatch so he made some — those are some big-time shots, lefty hooks were not easy, they weren't layups, so it's a testament to his work ethic and what he does every day in practice getting ready."
On Delante continuing to attack the rim and be aggressive despite rough shooting night
"Yeah absolutely, he's not gonna stop, he's not gonna get gun shy. He's sort of wired to score and he thinks the next one's going in kind of thing. And he needs that mentality and we need for him to have that mentality."
CHARLIE AND MARKO
Charlie on making big plays the last couple minutes
"I actually screwed up a couple times beforehand so I was just glad I was able to make some plays there at the end. I kind of put us in a bad spot a few times overhelping, trying to be a little too ambitious on defense, so I've got to get better at that. Everyone made plays at the end, we did a good job as a team coming together getting stops and rebounding and just made some big plays."
Marko on whether the team came out a little tight being the favorite in a game for the first time in several games
"I don't think we actually thought about the record necessarily or anything like that. I just thought, I thought we had some good open shots the first half, they just didn't fall in, and coach told us at the half to keep running our offense and keep getting those open shots and we got them in the second half and we made some of them. I don't think we necessarily thought about the record and that we're favorites and stuff like that. I just think the shots didn't fall in the first half."
How often do you guys still think about the Patriot League title game last year? How much does it motivate you?
"They're two different teams this year. I mean last year they'll always have that championship, there's really nothing we can do about it. It will kind of always sting when you think back about it, but lamenting over it's not really gonna do anything now. So we just gotta keep getting better as a team and hopefully work our way back there sometime soon."
"Again the same thing — I don't think anyone thinks during the game about the fact that this game means more or less than any other game, it's just focusing on details, we do what we're supposed to do. Of course losing that games sucks, but I don't think anyone thinks about it anymore."
How do you guys deal with last season's tight 6-man rotation vs. this year's more constant subbing and unpredictability in terms of minutes?
"I think it's actually good that more players are playing now, bringing their own strengths and having other players rest more. Our freshman class is very good this year and they're getting the opportunity to play a lot and that's always good for us the more players play for us."
"Yeah, definitely, everyone can help us win in their own way. Some guys might not play a lot one night but we know that we're gonna need them the next night to come out on the court and step up and help us win, just gotta be ready."
Charlie, describe the last play, the inbound. Were you the first option?
"The play was really just to try to get a good shot. I was going backdoor from the beginning and luckily I was able to make a pretty hard cut and Delante saw me late and he made a great pass to get me the ball. But in that situation we knew we had one second on the shot clock, need something quick, so the plan was for me to go backdoor or Jesse coming off a screen to get a shot up."
Charlie on having the propensity to take and make big shots late in games even if he hasn't shot much until the final moments
"All of the shots regardless of when I take them are the same — I missed a free throw in the first half that if I would've made, we wouldn't have had to go to overtime. So I don't really view any one play or any one shot in any particular moment as being more important than the others. All of them have equal weight in the end contributing to the scoreboard, so I'm just always ready trying to find a way to make a play when need be."
Marko on his approach and mindset at the end of regulation scoring the last four points and whether he thought of the Bucknell game last year (when he missed two late free throws with AU down 1) when he went to the line and sank the two with 21 seconds left
"I didn't really think about it at that moment, but now I think about it (that you mentioned it). But yeah it was just, we were just running our offense and Lafayette was playing us hard. So the first move I made, no one was open and I thought I could take my guy one on one and I made a move, spun and scored the first time. When I got fouled, I really wasn't trying to think about the moment of the game, I was just focusing on making the free throws so I wasn't putting that extra pressure on me, I guess, I was just focusing on making those two shots. Luckily, they got in unlike Bucknell."